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tv   Anderson Cooper 360  CNN  January 26, 2018 9:00pm-10:00pm PST

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good evening. the president has arrived back in washington tonight facing the latest storm on the newest item in a long growing list of investigations that could land him in serious trouble. the president calls the latest item fake news and even before last night's effort to fire mueller, president trump mocked the idea that any of his actions so far could be legally problematic. >> then they say, oh, well, did he fight back? you fight back, oh, it's obstruction. >> keeping them honest, because
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this is exactly what robert mueller could be considering. we show you the timeline of what some may call -- the list is certainly long and exhausting, item one, january 27 of last year, fbi director james comey had dinner with the president. the president first asked him if he wanted to stay on as fbi director, then he said loyalty, i expect loyalty. >> and you have never had any of those requests before from anyone else you've worked with in the government? >> no, and at that point i'm director of the fbi, the reason they created a 10-year term, so that they don't feel like they political politically owe anyone.
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>> was that on the president's mind when he demanded loyalty from director comey? february 13, national security advisor michael flynn is forced out. at the time it was for lying about ties to russia, that of course was not true, he has since pleaded guilty to lying to the fbi. in a meeting in the oval office, the president sends everyone out of the room except for director comey, then comey says the president tells him this about flynn, he's a good guy and has been through a lot, i hope you can see your way clear to letting this go, to letting flynn go. he later elaborated to the intelligence committee. >> as i said in my statement, i could be wrong, but flynn had been forced to resign the day before and the controversy around general flynn at that point in time centered on whether he had lied to the vice
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president about the nature of his conversations with the russians, whether he had been candid with others in the course of that. so that happens on the day before, on the 14th, the president makes specific reference to that. so what i understood him to be saying is he wanted me to drop any investigation into flynn's account of his statement to the russians? on march 2, jeff sessions recuses himself. on march 22, according to "the washington post," the president lobbies a top intelligence official to intervene to stop director comey from investigating jeff flynn. and then he sites the reason for firing -- the president boasts a russian's foreign minister and the ever present ambassador
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kilyak, i just fired the head of the fbi. i'm not under investigation. that's according to the "new york times." firing comey took the pressure off. and as if to dispel any doubt that russia had at the very least factored into the conversation of firing mr. comey, the facts bore it out the next day in his comments to lester holt. >> i was going to fire comey, knowing there was no good time to do it. and in fact when i decided to just do it, i said to myself, i said, you know, this russia thing with trump and russia is a made up story, it's an excuse for having lost an election that they should have won. the next day he sent this tweet, james comey better hope there were no tapes of our conversation.
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at the time press secretary sean spicer denied it. again there were no tapes. on that 17, deputy attorney general rob rosenstein appoints robert mueller as special counsel. he says at one point the fbi is in tatters, the intelligence community, deep state and others, all of which continues to this day. and the president later pushed sessions to get christopher wray to clean house. on june 12, trump friend christopher roddy went on fox news and dropped this bombshell. >> i think he's considering perhaps terminating the special counsel. i think he's weighing that
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option. i think it's pretty clear by what one of his lawyers said on television recently. i personally feel that it would be a very significant mistake. >> we have since learned that the president did more than just consider it, he ordered it and then backed down at the last minute. is that an attempt to obstruct justice? >> while the president has the right to, he has no intention to do so. >> the president hasn't even discussed that, he's cooperating with. he's not discussed firing bob mueller. >> i haven't given it any thought. i've been reading about it from you people, oh, i'm going to s dismiss him. no, i'm not going to dismiss him. >> is there any chance to the president will try to fire
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robert muler? >> i saw a couple of people talking about that this morning, and the answer to that is no. it. >> are you going to fire bob mueller? >> no, i am not. >> now take a look at this, i'll ask again, are any of these an attempt to obstruct justice. is the sum total enough to suggest obstruction of justice. it bob mueller will decide soon enough. the president is back in d.c. with the catastrophe swirling around his white house. and that's where we find pam brown. did he or any of the white house staff talk about the plan to fire mueller? >> reporter: they did not. he only would say that his trip to davos was a great trip, a successful trip, he did not address the revelations that he directed the white house counsel don mcgahn to fire mueller.
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and claimed that these revelations is fake news, saying that the russia investigation is a hoax. other than that the white house has been mum. there has not been a public denial from white house counsel don mcgahn, and given that, and given the news, you have to wonder what the future meetings will be like with the president and his white house counsel. we're told that up until this point, that don mcgahn wanted to be in this role, was happy with this role, but you can imagine that sets up some awkward meetings, some i have spoke with said that they were surprised by the -- this was a tense time, there was a lot of anxiety going on, it was really touch and go. it but certainly a lot of them didn't realize the extent to which this boiled over with don
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mcgahn, white house counsel, apparently according to sources threatened to resign over the firing of robert mueller. how intense are these negotiations going on between white house counsel and robert mueller's team. at one point we thought that the don mcgahn order to fire robert mueller could be part of the investiga investigation. joining us now is democratic senator cory booker. senator booker, president trump ordering mueller to be fired, taking it with everything we know so far, does it to you say obstruction of justice? >> we see in this president, very authoritarian tendencies,
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that upset, more than just set, destroy the norms of our democracy and do rise to the attention to the special prosecutor. remember, this is somebody who, as you said through that long fact pattern has made it his business to seem to try to intimidate or punish people, whether it's jeff sessions for recusing himself, whether it's robert mueller himself. we have a very serious situation with this president that ultimately, i think is unchecked right now and doesn't see himself as being subject to the rule of law. i mean he's even going as far like deictators in other nation to call for the arrest and persecution and prosecution of -- to do some pragmatic by partisan things to apply more
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checks and balances to a president who has more authoritarian tendencies. >> yesterday he described what he was doing is fighting back. you're saying it's beyond fighting back? >> clearly if he means what he says, that he's done nothing wrong, that he hasn't colluded with the russians, if he hasn't been in any way been involved, he should do what he said when he was citizen trump to others, if you have nothing to hide, let the investigation run its course, submit to interviews, let the case run its course instead of acting like you have something to hide and use power that really does pervert american norms and traditions and could end up being criminal acts. >> mcgahn didn't actually fire mueller and he put his foot down
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means that things are working properly. >> if that's what that means, look at where we are now in the united states, we are saying, hey, we're glad we have a few people in the white house, are protecting us from the president's tendencies, from his inclinations, from his passions, that's a pretty serious thing, given all the things he has to deal with, his -- and so the only thing separating this president from disastrous outcomes is the courage, occasional courage of people in his circles who have to literally then him with leaving, threaten him with resigning. that to me doesn't seem like a very good situation, in fact it's something to me is tantamount to a potential crisis in the future. that's why congress i believe needs to be taking very
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pragmatic steps. not just pragmatism, but moral urgency to make sure that we have the right protections in place in case this president ever crosses the line. >> there were some calls to take action to protect mueller -- >> chuck grassley, the republican chairman of the judiciary committee granted a hearing. he thought enough to give it a hearing. and so i'm hoping that after this crisis, it's friday now, people have left, but when people get back that we're going to find some more momentum to actually get something passed, not only for this moment in time. we have a president who is in power that's under investigation by a special prosecutor, can order the firing of that prosecutor without much accountability whatsoever, to ask the judiciary branch to
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provide a check on that power so that it doesn't become authoritarian, and that's something we should do, for now, for this case scenario and for in the future. >> have you spoken to your republican colleagues, is there an appetite to push this legislation forward? >> certainly there's been an appetite to co-opt that legislation. we all see the same behavior on the part of our president. and i think people have a lot of concern. and when you talk to people on both sides of the aisle, how happy they are that secretary of defense mattis is in there to control him from his impulses. that's not enough, we need the rule of law, we need checks and balances. we need to make sure that our republic in and of where it stands now that we have a
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preside president. >> our legal team's take on the obstruction question. and call it the first lady vanishes, where she went, instead of accompanying the president overseas just days after the wedding anniversary we'll have more on that ahead on 360. my sister! ♪ ♪ sometimes the confidence to be spontaneous starts with financial stability. once i heard it i was shocked. i just thought, i have to go get it! ♪ ♪ it's our tree! ♪ ♪ see how a personalized financial strategy and access to j.p. morgan investment expertise can help you. chase. make more of what's yours. to j.p. morgan investment expertise can help you. peopbut they're different.nd. it's nice to remove artificial ingredients. kind never had to. we choose real ingredients like almonds, peanuts and a drizzle of dark chocolate. find your favorite and give kind® a try.
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breaking news on the reaction in washington tonight, on top of the reporting on how close the president came to firing robert mueller, the president is annoyed with one key justice official. i understand that the president has been aiming his air at rod rosenstein? >> the president has grown frustrated with rod rosenstein, he's airing these frustrations. he's even smopoken about wantin to fire the deputy attorney general rod rosenstein, this sounds like the president airing his frustrations. it gives you an indication about how preoccupied the president is about this russia probe and all these different aftvenues he's taken to try to put an end to
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it. we know that attorney general jeff sessions recused himself. and how he dealt with mueller in considering firing him and now it seems that rod rosenstein has gotten caught up in that as well and is in the president's crosshairs. >> jeffrey toobin and jonathan turley. regardless how angry the president is at rosenstein, sure he could legally fire him, but what be the political fallout from that? >> i don't think he cares about the political fallout. just pause and think about how many people he's already fired in his own administration. >> and doesn't like already. >> he's talked about firing jeff sessions, now the deputy rod rosenste rosenstein, he's mad at kelly, he's mad at don mcgahn, the white house counsel.
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at this point you have to look at the management and he's already gotten rid of half the white house staff one go around, that the news more than what rod rosenstein did. >> regarding any possible obstruction case mueller might bring, he has to prove corrupt intent. what is the bar to corrupt intent? >> corrupt intent is bad intent. it's not a legal technicality, it's just improper. intent, the president is allowed to fire the fbi director as he did, and he could have set in motion the firing of robert mueller, but it is obstruction of justice if you do it with corrupt intent. and i think what's so important about the "new york times" story yesterday, is you see that donald mcgahn, the white house's own lawyer thought that the president's intent was wrong,
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improper. the reasons he gave, the three bogus reasons he gave for wanting to fire mueller suggests that you really could find an improper intent here and the evidence of obstruction of justice is getting stronger. >> do you agree with his conclusion? >> trump can argue that there's another reason for why he wanted to fire mueller. mueller did have a conflict of interest. i was very critical of mueller's appointment. he's a witness to his own investigation. because you're not supposed to be a witness in an investigation that you're conducting. he interviewed for that job, he met with the president soon after the termination of comey, you can throw a stick and hit
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100 lawyers in d.c. maybe it was a mistake, but it doesn't mean that he should be fired and it also doesn't mean the president should be given credit for not firing him. you can't complain that there was a fire when somebody else blew out the match. the president was about to do a remarkably self defeating act and one that i feel would be grossly inappropriate. but i don't think it makes a case for obstruction. people constantly look at things and say there's the piece we're looking at. but he has defenses. >> i think jonathan sort of made my point, which is you look at so many different acts that the president has done, whether it's telling james comey to be loyal, whether it's telling him to go easy on his national security adviser, whether it's firing james comey, whether it's trying to fire robert mueller, yes,
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perhaps it's true, each one of these individually is not a criminal act. but when you take them all together, you do see a pattern of improper motives, using the power of the presidency to -- for improper purposes. this was why impeachment proceedings began against richard nixon, this is why in part bill clinton was impeached. this is an abuse of power that the impeachment process has traditionally been used to police. >> i think where we disagree, anderson, is that there is another explanation. if you look outside this investigation, the president conducts himself much in the same way, he often goes boldly where wiser men would not tread. of he often tries to manage issues, he often speaks directly to how he's feeling. this is not that different with how he deals with other areas. so the assumption that each of
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these acts has a criminal intent, ignores the facts that it's consistent with his acts outside of the investigation. >> there's no defense under the law that you have a big personality. if you fire the fbi director for an improper purpose, i don't care that you sometimes fly off the handle. i mean this is an act that is potentially at least, a violate of the law. >> jeffrey, you and i, i think agree, i think it was a terrible mistake to fire james comey. but there's a perfect alternative reason, many people had called for him to be fired and rod rosenstein had his memo that listed people on both sides includes attorneys general that said that he should go. you're assuming that might be a good reason, but it's not the reason he had in his head, i
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don't think that's a very strong criminal case. >> thank you very much. ahead, for a lot of americans trump's attempt to fire bob mueller last summer brought back memories of another president in another time, . when did you see the sign? when i needed to jumpstart sales. build attendance for an event. help people find their way. fastsigns designed new directional signage. and got them back on track. get started at theratears® uniquefer from the electrolyte formula, and got them back on track. corrects the salt imbalance that causes dry eye. so your eyes will thank you.
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( ♪ ) (grunting) today is your day. crush it. angie's boom chicka pop whole grain popcorn. boom! it was a different time and a different president, but the news that this president donald trump wanted to fire special counsel robert mueller last june, only to be convinced it would be a political firestorm if he did, it echoes what became known as the saturday night massacre, it erupted as the nation was in the throes of watergate. >> i would say these people ariare i going to cost a million dollars over the next few years. >> richard nixon and white house counsel john dean in closed quarters talking about the watergate break ins.
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but nixon invokes executive privilege, refusing to give up the tape. knicks nixon is ordered to comp >> i think it's my duty to bring to the court's attention what seems to be noncompliance with the court's order. >> thinking he has the country on his side, nixon takes a gamble and orders his attorney general eliot richardson to fire cox. >> good evening, there are reports tonight president nixon has ordered eliot richardson to fire archibald cox. >> but richardson refuses to fire cox. >> i am the independent special prosecutor and for me to have acquiesced in him being fired would be a total betrayal of
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that commitment. >> so then the president orders him to fire the special prosecutor. before the night is done, the u.s. attorney general agrees to fire archibald cox, the so-called saturday night massacre. still nixon is hardly immune to it all. about nine months later, nixon on the verge of impeachment, but instead of being removed from office, he resigns. >> i shall resign the presidency, effective at noon tomorrow. >> we decided to assemble a group of people who were very involved in what was happening in and around the white house, david gergen was the speechwrit speechwriter, the lead attorney for the watergate's special prosecutor's office and carl bernstein, carl along with bob woodward would become
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journalistic legends by breaking story after story in the post. i wonder what went through your mind then and what went through your mind when you heard president trump had attempted essentially the same thing? >> well, saturday night massacre was a shock, i almost drove off the road coming home from dinner. it literally was some of the best people in government were resigning en masse and there was a very clear sense we were in crisis, no one knew where it was going to end and the republic was in danger so it was a big deal. when i hear about president trump, it's so ironic, this was one of his best days here in davos, he really did well among international leaders. it is his fate until this is resolved. this is a story that's a very
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dangerous one for him. >> you had left the white house during the water -- you were nixon's don mcgahn, you were his white house counsel. what do you make of him -- >> things have changed since watergate because of watergate and one of the things a lawyer has to do today is if he sees a criminal activity going on, he has to withdraw from it or resign and in some jurisdictions, that can be a noisy withdrawal, so he did what the rules would call for, but as it happened, anderson, i had pled guilty just days before the saturday night massacre. i had gambled, i had been told that he might be fired. i said well there's no way he can do it without somebody else forcing him to appoint a new one so i took a risk.
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>> so he not only fired him but declared the prosecutor's office disbanded. what kind of affect did that have on you and your colleagues and how unnerved do you think the mueller team is, at all? >> it was total intellectual shock, we had the idea this might happen, indeed, john had just pled guilty the day before, and he called me immediately after he heard the news and said, what do we do now? and the judge settled down, the grand jury called him in and said, you're still in business, the firing of archibald cox has not affected you. and we, to our amazement, dusted ourselves off because we were not fired along with archibald cox, but it was quite clearly an effort to obstruct justice by firing archibald cox as the firing of robert mueller would
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be. because there's no legitimate basis to fire him, it's something we have discussed here on your show since june for sure and perhaps that's had some affect on don mcgahn and others in the white house who tried to prevent and did succeed in preventing trump from following his instinct to fire robert mueller. >> carl, the irony, of course the backlash against nixon was so strong he had to appoint a new special prosecutor, leon jawors jaworski, there's no different than if the president had fired muler? >> it's been the republicans who have come in time and time again to donald trump's support when he tries to shut down this investigation by any means
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possible, to undermine it, demean it. we have yet to hear mitch mcconnell or paul ryan get up and say this mueller investigation that is legitimate and important to our country must go on. what happened in watergate was that republicans became the heroes of watergate by saying, nobody, including the president of the united states is above the law, mr. nixon, you must turn over your tapes, you must cooperate with the special prosecutor. and that's the big difference. and we have yet to hear from republican leaders and say mr. trump, we are not going to tether our party to your lying. and that's the most consistent element, the most consistent thing trump has done in office is to fight for the russian investigation to be made to go away, one way or another. it's been loud, it's been consistent, he's tried to undermine it at every single turn and now it appears that there's a serious obstruction
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case that the special prosecutor might be building. >> i want to continue with our panel, but we have to take a quick break. we'll be right back. we'll ok? you don't always use your smartphone to read the latest posting. aw, a girl lost her dog. oh! hey... wait a minute. you don't always use your smartphone to friend someone. hi. i think i found your dog... but when it matters most, you count on tracfone to keep you connected, for less. murphy! (dog barking) aww. smartphone plans with talk, text and data start at $15/month, no contract. all with unlimited carryover... ...and nationwide 4g lte coverage. tracfone. for moments that matter.
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back now with our echoes of watergate panel, john dean, david gergen, john bernstein. carl, i mean this is a serious, troubling decisions that are looming over the investigation. >> the most important decision is what mueller is going to do. and we don't know what he's going to do. it's clear that he has got the president's campaign, his closest associates, members of his family, in his sights. now it doesn't mean he wants to bring them down in his sights, he wants to find out what they have done. and they have been resisting letting him know what has been done and what they did. >> there's a passage of carl's book which he co-opted with bob woodward. you said, quote, the moral authority of the president is
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collapsing, how can you be thinking about housing? to me it's a really interesting question. is that what it's like in the white house when all this is going on, to try and get things done and to avert a potential crisis or a huge investigation. >> a lot of people around the president are very honest citizens, they have come in for what they hope is a good cause. when something like this happens, you worry greatly about, are the pillars going to come down? i had that conversation with bob woodward on several occasions, we were both concerned, carl was concerned about that, and we had lots of conversations inside the white house, should you leave, is the patriotic thing to do to leave this white house or not? and a number of people did leave
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as quietly as they could. a lot of supporters, the president can say why are we talking about the mueller story? this is the saturday night massacre that never happened, why is it important? one reason it's important is that over the past few months, on over a dozen occasions, the white house has told us that there was never any consideration in the white house about firing mueller. they've all been saying it. so if they have been lying to us on this, why are we to believe them on the collusion aspect, on the money laundering, that is so corrosive to the moral authority of the president. >> if you could channel yourself back at the lowest days of watergate, when you were talking to nixon about how to cover up the watergate burglary, what would you advise the president to do about all of this? would you say president, you can
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always play hardball and when it's all over maybe you can pardon yourself? >> when i did that taped show, i was trying to figure out who he was, where he was, what he knew, because in the first eight months in the white house, i didn't deal with him at all, so when i do start dealing with him on a daily basis, i today know i knew much more than he did. i tried to tell him that watergate was a cancer on his presidency, and that if he didn't stop it, he would wind up losing the presidency. and he had an answer for every issue i raised. >> would that be your recommendation this time? >> my recommendation would be a the sooner he gets this up and out and dealt with the better himself, the better for his presidency. if he's not obstructed, if he's
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not colluded, why is he acting as he has? nixon didn't order the watergate break in, initially we know from the tapes he was worried about his friend john mitchell, well in this case, it looks like he was worried about mike flynn. so trump should see the history and try to learn the consequences of it. >> one of the questions is whether a sitting president could be indicted. so those who say indicting a sitting president would be too destabilizing for the country, and that's why the impeachment process exists. what do you say? >> it's something that's never been resolved, the supreme court has never opined on it and we don't know what robert mueller
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will do with the information. in our case, we had a sitting judiciary committee which was considering impeachment. to carl's point, the republicans who control both houses of congress have not demonstrated an interest to the extent that is necessary in my view in protecting the nation by considering the import of what this investigation is all about. >> i want to thank everybody on the panel, fascinating stuff. coming up, the question is where is melania trump. she was supposed to go to davos with the president, now she's down in mar-a-lago, is she charting a new course for first ladies or just trying to stay out of the spotlight? that's next. this time next year, we're gonna be sitting on an egg. i think we're getting close! make a u-turn... u-turn? recalculating... man, we are never gonna breed. just give it a second. you will arrive in 92 days.
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first lady melania trump isn't as public as many predecessors. never more evident than this
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week. she was scheduled to travel too davos with the president but cancelled at the last mirn minute. the elephant in the room the news that broke about the pay off for the porn star. cnn contributor is the author of a book called first women, recently wrote an op ed in the "new york times." the quiet radicalism of melania trump. you're writing your piece. is maybe melania who winds up doing more than any predecessors to up end the slavish a first lady must display. >> we have a notion of what a first lady should do. there's no job description. there's no payment for the job. and endless criticism. no matter what you do. with michelle obama, bush and
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clinton. it's unique she's not standing by her man. the way we have seen progressive women like hillary clinton do. it's the only marriage you can put in the ballpark of the trump relationship. it's complicated. i like the fact she is not coming out vocally and supporting him. and making it clear she is upset about some of this. it's humiliating. >> you think that's what the silence is? saying that? >> i think so. cancelling the davos trip on their 13th wedding anniversary. the inauguration tweet. she's with marine and not her husband. these things add up. not moving to the white house immediately was unresidented. five months later she moved in. the fact they have separate bedrooms. the first couple since the kennedys to sleep in separate bedrooms. it says a lot. >> it takes first ladies a while to figure out what initiatives
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they want to have. obama took her a while to figure out what she wanted to do. is it possible that she's in that faze right now? >> i don't think so. they have far fewer staff than michelle obama had. it took her a year to come up with the let's move campaign. which was her signature issue in the white house. but i don't think that melania trump wanted her husband to run. she's not political. we see that no whaert she does like cyber bullying backfired. because of her husband's tweets. there's nothing she can do that will be a political. people feel badly for her. >> is she interested in the role? you have written about other first ladies in the past. >> i don't think she is. she didn't grow up in the country. it's a hard role to understand even growing up here. and the first lady i have talked to often said how difficult it is. and they reached out to each
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other. which is another key thing that she doesn't have. she hasn't spoken with michelle obama since they met. a year ago. and she had lunch with bush shortly after the inauguration. it's not as though she has warm relationships with the other women. she is in a particularly hard position. >> thank you so much. more news ahead. we'll be right back. theratears® unique electrolyte formula, corrects the salt imbalance that causes dry eye. so your eyes will thank you. more than eye drops, dry eye therapy. theratears®. stop by your locale tax serjackson hewittou? and get all the benefits of a tax pro. with jackson hewitt you get 100% accuracy and our max refund guarantee. so, switch to jackson hewitt. open late and weekends. is america's number-one you kmotorcycle insurer.
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quick programming note. you don't want to miz this. the van jones show premiers tomorrow. he drives around in a van with clinton voters and trump voters in charlottesville, virginia. >> listen, they don't have good sense at cnn. they let anybody drive.
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>> here we are at lee park. when you see the statue. how do you feel about that? >> that was put up as a way of telling black and brown people you go this far and no further. >> what do you base that statement on? >> the history. >> that's contrary to anything i know. >> how would you feel if you were a black man or black woman. you talk about generations of enslavement. how do you feel seeing the statue? >> i don't think as a white person i will ever completely understand how a black person feels. >> and he also has an exclusive interview with jay z. quite a show. that's it for us. time to hand it over to chris cuomo. for cuomo "prime time." >>